Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Reconsidering How To Empower Expert Learners

“Good tech integration starts with good pedagogy.”

One of my professors recently stated this, and I could not have asked for a better quote to start a course on Trends and Issues in Educational Technology when considering the mindset essential for implementing technology into education. It can be extremely easy to use tech simply to be “the most modern” or to sell the school as a product. At the same time, it is quite possible to deeply desire improvements in the infusion of technology, connections on local and global scales, and collaboration focused on moving the learning experiences forward. (These are a few of my favorite things…)

This is when organizations such as the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) come into play and make a huge difference. They have been ongoing for over 30 years, and only in the last few recent years have I heard of them and the amazing work they have been doing. One of the many things they have provided for educators on all levels is standards for integrating technology into education. These have served to challenge, empower, and transform the use of technology. ISTE also holds major conferences every year where thousands of educators gather for a plethora of opportunities for learning as well as non-stop collaboration. ISTE is one of the several organizations I follow closely while working abroad in order to stay updated on transformative teaching, the proper integration of technology within my context, and an insane amount of resources.

More important than technology are the media utilized for learning and growth. Recently, I have been reading Teaching in a Digital Age by Dr. Tony Bates, and he takes a chapter to explain the differences between technology, media, and their intricacies. It was humbling delving into a topic like this since solely relying on my experience had me certainly confuse the meanings of the two words. In my mind, media had basically become technology and vice versa. Differentiating the two and examining the perplexity of each had me build a fresh foundation of understanding for the implementation of technology within teaching, leading, and learning.

I will confess too. I had forgotten that media is the plural form of medium, or “a means by which something is communicated or expressed” (according to my Apple dictionary). Thus, I took this revisited piece of word knowledge to the ELLs in my high school health class. The topic came up naturally since we discuss media occasionally in class. I asked the students to describe how media and technology are different. Following some proceeding thoughts, I then asked if they knew that the word media was the plural form of a word. They didn’t. It’s crucial to understand what we don’t know, and that’s what has been happening in my Master’s courses, research on technology’s place in education, and reflections/steps in improving my own teaching.
In regards to my teaching, that same professor passed on information related to Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Curriculum. This curriculum design is distinctive and includes four vital and interrelated components. While perusing the site, at least a couple things stuck out to me. Firstly, I found myself lost in the moment clicking on the hyperlinks related to my context or needs. Before I even realized what was happening, I had sought out several “Checkpoints,” or examples and resources, and tried at least one to two models within each one. I became quite absorbed on how to incorporate the resources into my teaching, but I don’t think that’s the best way of contemplating media’s place in learning. What I read in Bates’ book were more than a couple suggestions of how to examine the details of a certain medium before its utilization. Secondly, I noticed how #futureready UDL is when it comes to molding expert learners. Through guidance from ISTE and application of Bates’ insights, the potential of UDL could be amplified. The interconnectedness of these three resources could bring about possibilities and benefits that educators, in the right time and place, could maximize for the students.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Taking My First Action Step with @Anchor

In my last post, I shared how I reached a standstill in my digital journey as an educator. Therefore, I listed some steps I'd like to take as a connected educator. (If you'd like to know more about "Action Steps," check out David Allen's Getting Things Done.) If one didn't notice, most of what I listed included methods that I myself could go beyond understanding/applying and move on to creating. Since then, a couple action steps have happened in ways I hadn't expected. I am excited(!), to say the least.

One that I've picked up on is a free podcasting app called Anchor where podcasts are able to be recorded and edited on-the-spot on your phone and can disappear after 24 hours if you so desire. But there's so much more to it! (I highly recommend you check out the site and app.)
Blogging with written words can be easier and safer than being part of different kinds of multimedia and social media production and interaction. Also, if I'm wanting my students to curate, design, make mistakes, and produce, then I should be an example. I got hooked on Anchor after a couple related events sparked my curiosity in various outlets as well as inspired me with the courage to go beyond my fears of being heard or seen within media. 

1) Don Wettrick, the transparent multimedia produced in his Innovation Class, and his StartEdUp podcast have encouraged me to be more open, incorporate others' voices, and move forward with telling one's story. After that, even going so as far as interacting on those platforms and being vulnerable in discussions of how to improve blows my mind. My brain is on rapid-fire when considering how to do this in China.

2) Malcolm Gladwell's Revisionist History podcast. Before this though came an insight from Gladwell when inquired on why he was starting a podcast. "You think with your eyes and feel with your ears." Upon hearing that, I started a station on Anchor and quickly discovered how monotonous my voice was. It was then that it clicked in my head...I can express my passion, tones, and more through a podcast. Why was I limiting myself? Gladwell certainly doesn't. I get chills while still thinking and processing what I had just listened to. (How much I want for similar situations to have my listeners experience when contemplating education!)
Starting off, there have been learning curves for sure. Nonetheless, it has been and will be worth it.

If you would like to listen to my For the Students Anchor podcast, check it out here, Favorite it, Share it, and let me know what questions and thoughts you have. Thanks!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Next Steps for a Connected Educator

Though I’ve been connected on social media for a few years, I feel like there should be more to the network, the community, the redefinition of it…all of this has made me think about the next steps I could should take when utilizing it as well as technology and the place they have within the innovation I myself as a person and teacher should strive for.

To be honest, when it comes to social media, I’ve already started to utilize Feedly, Pinterest, Evernote, and Twitter into my own personal methods of professional development and collaboration (though Evernote is on its last leg). Feedly came within the last couple months off of a recommendation from Steven Anderson since I couldn’t find a quality app for Blogger on the App Store. I initially didn’t join Pinterest because I used to think it was only for recipes, decoration ideas, and wedding planning. Little did I know with such a na├»ve mind. It’s great for curating content while Evernote allows me to save the article then and there in various ways. (Side notes: Pinterest is now blocked in China as of a few weeks ago, Evernote is in Chinese on the local internet, and Twitter has been game-changing. Who would have thought any of those would have happened?)

What I have found is that simply joining these platforms is not enough in itself. Lurking is a decent first step, but to move forward one must learn how to partake, collaborate, and create when ready. Therefore, I joined ISTE’s #ETCoaches / Blogging Buddies a month or so back to obtain more interaction and communal growth. I would also like to start utilizing YouTube and possibly YouKu (China’s YouTube) more often along with the inclusion of more multimedia than just simply pictures within posts/sharing. Then there's live-streaming, whether it be Periscope or YouTube.

Some of these tools have Chinese versions (in-app or on the website), which I always check when browsing the App Store or web. It’s also been vital to check the Chinese App Store since there are some apps present or missing when compared to the American one.
I’ve been using American platforms, but I’d like to take a step with Chinese ones as well. I’m still considering how to do this long-term, and that includes how to get the most out of WeChat, QQ, and Weibo (China’s Twitter). WeChat is the big one here, and it very well may have an effect on your internet. With that said, I don’t want to keep switching between what kind of internet or which social media I use because the students and colleagues I interact with on a daily basis usually surf a different one from the one I’ve been accustomed to. (If only there was a Chinese version of Buffer.)

How should I go about this? Which steps would you suggest or take in this situation?

What steps can you take to go outside your comfort zone and move forward in your journey as a connected educator?

Photo Credits: ePublicist

Friday, July 7, 2017

My Tech and Digital Journey as an Educator

When I think back on my tech/digital journey as a teacher, one word comes to mind.

Though I’ve only been blogging since November 2014 (according to my Blogger history), I’ve read and interacted with educators on other blogs and sites previous to that. I didn’t want to put my words and thoughts on educational matters for the world to see just yet. (Little did I know how important collaboration outside of the walls could be!) Around 2010 or so, I knew there was a divide between what my peers in China and those in America could access. That didn’t play a hand in my waiting until 2014, but I now know that the divide is lessening because of growing ways Chinese locals can access foreign websites. Therefore, I’ve been more cognizant of what I write about because the audience over time has shifted somewhat. It was a global audience, but now it included students, teachers, and educators from places I once considered unlikely to connect with in digital ways.

Certainly, I’m ecstatic to hear and see the use of tools like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat by my students.1 It helps me hope for a future where the students will not just consume media but will delve into curating information and creating innovative ways to better our world.

One of those ways educators and students worldwide could be doing that is through blogging.

Blogger, Twitter (since 2012), and other social media have been influential for me professionally. The following is a list of some ways they have impacted me (in no particular order, and certainly not limited to):

1) notice blind spots
2) seek others’ perspectives/advice
3) self-examine
4) keep the global community in mind
5) learn of novel topics, ideas, beliefs, or resources

What about you? Tell us about your tech/digital journey as an educator. How has it impacted you? Are you or another educator you know considering learning more about tech? How could sharing our stories shape us within our communities and allow us to move forward together in our honest examination of how we educate?

1 - It seems students are more into these than those my age, and I still don’t know why. I’m also looking into the “creepy treehouse” and reflecting on if/how it happens here.

photo credit: WanderingtheWorld (

Friday, June 30, 2017

When Should a Student (be Allowed to) Get Facebook?

Two different questions have been on my mind recently.


When should a student get Facebook?

I recall asking my sixth-grade nephew once if he had Facebook. “I don’t need it,” he responded.

That threw me off.

Students at my former school obtained a smartphone and/or an iPad by mid-elementary, and there’s certainly a different age requirement than 13 in China. I say this because a lot of elementary students already have WeChat or QQ (social media platforms with chats, posts, and so much more). I didn’t even stop to consider how one of my 6th graders recently asked to add me on Facebook. Reflecting on all of that had led me to wrongfully assume that every child I met as young as mid-elementary would desire to connect via social media. Low and behold, every child’s life and context are different. When a child actually wants to get Facebook more than likely varies on lots of factors, many of which we as outsiders to their lives may not know about. (For more on ways we may misunderstand teens and technology, please check out danah boyd’s It’s Complicated.)

I didn’t think of the fact that my nephew was under 13 years old when I asked him either. Thankfully I haven’t met, heard of, or needed to report anyone under 13 using Facebook. This brought me to the following question…
When should a student be allowed to get Facebook?

Little did I know about the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a law passed in 1998 to protect children under 13 from having their personal information available. Thus, Facebook’s age requirement is 13. Most other apps/sites have the same condition while some range lower or higher.

Common Sense Media has much to say about protection and guidelines for social media, along with what is going on at age 13 developmentally. Parents and teachers alike should take heed and stay informed. This will help when striving to understand what pre-teens are going through. It should be strongly suggested for the parent as well to be involved in the child’s life during this time since children lying about how old they are may put peers at risk. (Side note: This would be a great time for adults to also examine our social media habits and behaviors because, as I have discovered in parenting and teaching, I and other adults still have some maturing to do too. Children are NOT alone in this manner.)

All of that makes sense while there are certainly “teachable moments” to be learned earlier in life, including those for a six year-old on Snapchat. But…can not the parent help guide the child in using social media such as Facebook before reaching the age of 13? Can the parent learn from the child? I’m not prompting you to push social media on to your child and lie about his/her age. (There are other ways to justify looking at your phone more than your child.) Don’t misinterpret that. What I’m urging is that we as adults be ready to understand the child, listen to his desires, and most importantly, steer him in the moral way to live before he is 13. The life the child lives offline will undoubtedly determine who he is online.